Many across the WWE Universe and the Internet Wrestling Community were distraught when Randy Orton pulled down the Money in the Bank briefcase to close Sunday night's pay-per-view. After weeks of Daniel Bryan's apparent ascension to the top of the WWE pecking order, it seemed obvious he'd capture the automatic title shot. In the end, though, this was the right call for business.
WWE may be fluid with it's week-to-week booking, but the long-term, fundamental rules the company lives by do not shift easily. Despite overwhelming crowd support, Bryan is not cut from the granite block in the way Vince McMahon envisions his champions. It takes a rare talent and perfect timing to break through in Vinny Mac's world. Now, unfortunately, was not the right time.
Orton has been a fixture in the company's main event scene for the last half-decade. He's a nine-time WWE/World Heavyweight Champion and a believable threat to capture either title at any moment. That said, he hasn't been involved in the WWE title scene in any significant manner for a long, long time.
While many groan about "another" John Cena vs. Randy Orton feud, the fact remains that we haven't seen these two go toe-to-toe in their current face standings in years. Orton is an unabashed crowd favorite that has come into his own as a cutthroat babyface. He's also a legitimate threat to John Cena from the perspective of the casual fan.
This brings us back to timing. The Money in the Bank All-Stars match was entirely composed of fan favorites. It was presumed going into the match that the victor would challenge Cena next month at SummerSlam—the second biggest show of the wrestling year, according to WWE. The company looks for big corporate sponsors and Hollywood glitz and glamor for their SummerSlam main events.
Unfortunately, that's not Daniel Bryan right now.
The Staples Center at SummerSlam will not be filled with diehard wrestling fans. They won't be the smarks that packed arenas in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Jersey or Baltimore. Los Angeles is notorious for having fair-weather fans who do not pay particularly close attention to their sports teams, except for maybe the Lakers.
You'll see plenty of celebrities at SummerSlam, but smark marks will be significantly outnumbered by grown men in brightly colored John Cena shirts because he's the movie star good guy. This is not the best environment for Bryan to win his first WWE title. It's also not a sure thing that he would actually win the belt in this match, considering the circumstances.
WWE has also been insistent that Cena not challenge another babyface lately. It appeared we were getting a real shift when Ryback attacked Cena after WrestleMania, but then the monster turned heel and flopped. Then we get a monster Mark Henry going after the champ. It wouldn't surprise anyone if this finally led to Orton turning heel.
If WWE doesn't want Cena out-popped by a babyface, then turning Orton makes sense without damaging The Viper. If the company tried to turn Bryan, the change would be rejected. The Goat would get cheered in every arena they visited at Cena's expense.
Bryan is still in line for a series of important matches. It's expected that Bryan will team with Kane and a third person (Rob Van Dam, perhaps?) against Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt Family at SummerSlam. This could potentially ignite the long-awaited Kane heel turn and the explosion of Team Hell No, which would certainly receive a positive crowd reaction.
My only request is that fans not consider this a demotion of Daniel Bryan. He hasn't been knocked down a peg. He'll still be a very important part of each week's programming and we'll get great matches each time he's out. I can't imagine his crowd support waning; it will only build. And when he finally does break through, the crowd will explode.
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